Monday, February 22, 2016

Habits of Kindness

Form habits of kindness. Do something kind every day.
Studies have proven that being kind makes you happier. Even if you think your actions may be wasted on some people, kindness isn't just about that. It actually makes you happier in your day-to-day life.
  I started doing this last year. Just one kind thing every day. It doesn't have to be a big thing. I'm not saying you have to donate a thousand dollars or adopt ten dogs. Just do something nice for someone every day. Anonymously or otherwise.
Here are some if you can't think of many.
1. Write a letter to a grandparent/etc.
Now, I'm not big on writing letters. But here's the thing: it doesn't even have to be long. Older people generally love letters. They just like to know that you're thinking about them. Give a short description of your day or the past week, ask how they're doing and even include a couple jokes if you know any. Tell them what you like doing, maybe add some funny mistake you've made recently. Even if they don't write back, you can be pretty sure they'll appreciate the sentiment.
2. Give out a kind word or even just a smile. 
I know it seems very simple, but you have no idea how much it helps some people. Especially little kids. Or give out a kind word to a store clerk. This one helps a lot. Store clerks have to deal with a lot of different people, and complimenting them or even just acting friendly can go a long way.
3. Contact someone you haven't talked to in a long time.
Say an old friend, a colleague or even a parent. Writing a letter might be better than calling, if you don't know how busy they are or etc. People genuinely like getting letters. It's the thought that counts. Again, it doesn't have to be a long letter.
4.  Do something extra.
It helps to do little chores or things around the house sometimes. In my family we always take turns doing the dishes. As part of my 'kindness quota' I sometimes wash a couple extra dishes for the next person. They don't even realize it sometimes, but it still feels good to do for them. Also, leaving a candy on my brothers' pillows when I have extras makes their day.
5. Encourage someone.
It doesn't matter what the situation it is. Take time to encourage someone and tell them what a good job they're doing. Doesn't matter if you're the boss at work or you're saying it to your teammates at school. People like to hear that they're doing a good job - and even if they aren't, encouragement goes a lot farther than insulting them. They're more likely to do better if they have positive reinforcement.
 6. Write good things every day about one person that frustrates you.
This one can be hard. There are plenty of people that frustrate me, and I have trouble coming up with much. Even if you can only come up with a couple good things, start with that. Just write about their good qualities. This is another method in redirecting your mind to help you not to criticize others.
7. Picking up trash that you see on trails/etc. 
This one of the things that many people appreciate. Litter on trails removes the beauty and can harm the environment and the wildlife. I know this seems very simple, but it really does help, especially to people who walk on the trails frequently and can tell the difference. Plus, you could be saving the lives of any animals nearby.
8. Pay for the drink/meal of the person behind you. 
A lot of people (including myself) can't afford this, but it doesn't have to be a lot of money. You could just pay for the drink of the person behind you. Or if you're in a bookstore, pay for the book of the person behind you. That is an AWESOME one. I mean, what could be nicer? And you know that even if you're not spending much money, the person you're doing it for while probably be thinking about it for a long time.
9. Think before you speak. 
This one may seem pretty obvious, but it's one a lot of people overlook. Words can't be taken be back before they're said, especially if they're said to a child. Think before you say something. It might seem simple but it can help everyone.
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9. Empathy.
I tend not to be as empathetic sometimes as I should be. I'm more of a logical person. But empathy can go a long way. You don't even have to say a lot - just listen. Be sympathetic. If they ask for advice, think about it for a minute and say what you know would make you feel better in their situation. Even if your advice isn't fantastic, it usually helps the person just to know you're there for them.
10. Express gratitude. 
Express gratitude to anyone who has helped you even in the smallest way. Teachers, especially. Store clerks. The bus driver. Waiters, waitresses.
11. Help animals.
Animals are amazing. They're innocent, wonderful creatures and have to survive in a whole different way than we do. Even just throwing some bread out for the birds or feeding the next homeless cat you see is an act of kindness. Adopt an animal from the pound, too, if you can. ---(FYI, if you decide to feed any ducks or etc, don't feed them bread. It's actually very bad for them. Fruit is much better.)
If you already have any animals, no matter what kind they are, whether it's fish or cats or guinea pigs, treat them as well as possible. Animals are like children - they rely on you completely for food, water and shelter. Animals are living creatures that deserve good care.
12. Call your family.
13. Go above and beyond at work.
14. Send someone a card on the holidays. 
Especially someone you know is alone, such as a grandparent or a friend.
15. Cook a meal for someone grieving a lost one, or someone who is sick. 
16. Leave pennies where kids can find them. 
To us pennies are pretty useless, but kids love finding them. Especially shiny pennies.
17. Buy flowers for someone, or pick them.
18. Put together a creative card or box with stuff in it for someone. Even if you don't feel very creative, you can lots of ideas from Pinterest or sites around the internet. Lots of people love things like that.
19. Use art, if you can. 
If someone loves quotes, paint their favorite one on a canvas, or find a notebook with that quote on it. Sew something for someone. Draw their favorite animal or etc on a card and send it to them.

 Encourage others to do this. Kindness has a way of spreading. Ever hear that news article about the one couple that paid for the meal of the people sitting behind them in a restaurant? The people whose meal they paid for did the same thing to the people behind them. It went on and on and nearly 20 people followed the example. I thought that was an awesome story.
And here's another great one:

You never know how far kindness goes. You might just smile at someone automatically, but to them it brightens up their day. Especially children. You never know what's going on with people. You never know what someone's day has been like. They could have just had a death in the family, or lost their job, or they might just generally be having a bad day. A word of kindness or a smile can help them.
A lesson a lot of people have yet to learn is not to jump to conclusions. You never know how the person who has just cut in front of you in traffic or made a mistake at work is really doing. They could be having a lot of problems in their life, grieving a loved one, or going through a divorce. The benefit of the doubt is a form of kindness.
Be the extension of God. Show people the meaning of being a Christian. Be happier.

The Benefits of Being the Better Person

One of my favorite quotes. And so true.
Now, I've been around a lot of people who criticize a lot. It's a habit I can't stand. Everyone is always fighting a battle you know nothing about. You never know what someone is going through. It doesn't matter what the situation is. There's usually a backstory you aren't aware of.
  Many people judge too quickly. They usually don't even mean to - it's just a habit. I've learned a few ways to condition yourself to give people the benefit of the doubt.
 1. Read a lot of novels.
This may seem like a strange one, but it can work. Reading novels gives you points of view from lots of different people. It doesn't matter if they're fictional. It gives you insight to how other people feel and think and why they do some of the things they do. Things that real people really might do for similar reasons. After a while you might find yourself automatically trying to come up with reasons for why people do the things they do, whether it's strangers or people you know.
  2. Read quotes and phrases about kindness.
There are a lot on Pinterest and Google. Reading quotes and phrases about kindness and giving the benefit of the doubt has always inspired me.
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I also like Brandon Heath's song - Give Me Your Eyes So I Can See:

 Now, I am not saying that nothing is the way it seems. Sometimes there is no better explanation for the things that people do. And I personally know that when it comes to people you know, giving the benefit of the doubt is not always an option. If you know the person, then you generally know what's behind their actions, the way they think and feel. There may not always be a good explanation for what someone does.
  Thing is - and I have been trying to teach certain people this for a very long time - criticizing doesn't help. That's one of the things most people don't realize. When you criticize people, you aren't defining them - you're defining yourself. There are going to be plenty of people in the world that you don't like. That's inevitable. But the thing is, if you start bashing people behind their backs, it's not going to effect that person's reputation, it'll effect yours. In the eyes of your friends you might be the one at fault.
As Christians I believe we should be the light of the world. That's the whole point of being a Christian. Your actions should reflect Jesus in every way possible - after all, He is the kindest, most forgiving person there is. There's already too much poverty and violence. People die every day. The world doesn't need to be made worse.

Sometimes there are no better explanations for a person's behavior. Sometimes we should accept that. But criticizing doesn't help anything. Some people say it makes them feel better. I can understand that - sometimes you get in that mode where you're just mad and you want someone to blame it on. But here's the thing - it's not worth it.
This isn't to say we can never be mad at anyone. Oh no. Anger can be justified, believe me. Especially in relationships. Giving someone the benefit of the doubt or forgiving them countlessly gets old fast. If the person you're dating/married to is cheating on you, don't just forgive them like that - get out of that relationship. If they didn't want you and only you for life, they shouldn't have told you they did.
    Another thing a lot of people don't realize - forgiving someone doesn't mean letting them get away with something. That's not at all what it means. I know it's hard to believe. When you think the word 'forgive' you automatically think that you're letting the person get away with something. That's the instant definition. But forgiving someone just means you're not going to let your grudge bury you anymore. Doesn't mean you ever have to see or talk to that person again. Doesn't mean you have to be buddies with 'em. Ever hear the phrase 'Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself'? It's true. Holding a steadfast grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. It's slowly killing you, burying you deeper and deeper in anger, while they're just sitting fine and dandy, letting you eat yourself away.
   Again. Doesn't mean you have to be friends with them. Heck, you can live on the other side of the world from them if you want. Just don't be simmering in anger the whole time. It doesn't do any good.
   Now, if you're a more logical person like me, that's what'll help you. Knowing that it simply, logically, doesn't do any good to hate that person. They're thinking, "So what? I don't care." So it doesn't do any good. You want to get under their skin, frustrate them? Then forgive them. People live off others' anger. If they know they're affecting you negatively, they like it. So forgive them, play nice, and it'll drive 'em crazy.
   Don't forgive and forget - just forgive.
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